Professional Development?

Every now and then, I think about Professional Development (PD) in terms of institutional offerings. This blog is committed to providing PD for music teachers who often receive little topic-specific PD for music or music education technology from their district, and my presentations–whose cost is usually covered out of my own pocket– are also meant to be PD for fellow teachers.  If you have attended a workshop I have taught–PD is at the core of those workshops. 

(I don’t mean to get stuck on that aspect of payment, but I think it is important to note that most conferences require the presenter to pay registration fees to present.  Knowing this can help you further appreciate fellow teachers who present at conferences–whether the sessions are great or not-so-great.)

A recent post by Tim Holt (a technology integration leader in Texas) suggested that we might not need designated PD time as we have in the past

Once again, I find myself not fully agreeing with the suggested concept. My own district has moved to a Ed Camp model of PD, providing time, but not designating topic–allowing teachers to choose their own topics. This is a great model for some teachers, and it saves the district thousands of dollars versus the old method of hiring or training PD facilitators.  

Mr. Holt suggests that teachers should be able to train other teachers (using Twitter and collaborative Word documents as an example). 

I think both of these are good models…but I also think that the “old” model shouldn’t be thrown out, either. If you are adopting a full 1:1, or a common new technology–the old model where the tech is introduced and basic skills are used in creating a product, is still valuable. Ed Camps are great, but should not be the only model used.  I have seen teachers misuse Ed Camp, and Mr. Holt’s example involves skills accessible on nearly any platform that should be available to every teacher (whether they choose to use Twitter or not). 

In music education, even some “basic” technology tools (think music notation) become wickedly advanced in little time.   Sometimes we need a master teacher and a required outcome to learn.  This summer, in my workshop on notation, I asked participants to choose a notation product and to do certain things with it. While they could have done that at home, my statement was, “Feel free to leave, but in my experience, we never set the time aside to actually learn the software–so this is your chance to do it.”  Nearly everyone stayed until the end of the day. 

It is also dangerous to expect teachers to simply learn on their own, without recompensation.  Our district tried that one summer.  Yuck. You are entitled–and wise–to use your summer break to refresh yourself for the next year.   Spend time with your family. Relax. Sleep in (if you don’t have small children). You should not be required to give that time up for PD.   You can choose to do so…but you should not be required to do so.  Paid “required” summer PD is also questionable (but sometimes unavoidable). In such cases, scheduling has to be extremely flexible.  When we opened a technology-rich high school in 2009, we offered SMARTBoard 101 and 102 in different sessions over a number of days, times, and weeks of the summer. 

I like to see a mixture of PD offerings…Ed Camps, teacher sharing time, optional PD experiences, and school-scheduled traditional PD.  Again, many scheduled PD topics may not directly relate to your teaching as a music educator–but some can.  As always, take what you can and use it in your instruction.


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